Federal Investments in Research Enabling Improvements in How We Age

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November 24, 2015

Federal Investments in Research Enabling Improvements in How We Age

Troy, N.Y. – Federal investments in research are paying off in scientific breakthroughs that are “unleashing the power and potential of proteins” in humans, which, by 2034, will have a significant effect on aging, according to an essay published by the Washington, D.C.-based Science Coalition.

“Many harbor this dream to age successfully, to maintain their ability to function well as they age; to live longer and better. By 2034, we may be able live the dream,” according to “Science 2034” essay author Deepak Vashishth, Ph.D., director of the Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies (CBIS) at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI).

Science 2034 is an initiative by The Science Coalition to focus on the possibilities of the future. The Science Coalition notes that, while we don’t know what the next “Big Thing” will be, we can make some educated predictions about how well-funded scientific research might change our lives and our world. Scientists, policymakers, and thought leaders weigh in on what they think science will enable by 2034 and what that will mean to individuals, society, and the world.

“Proteins are the fabric of our lives. The human body and its microbiota potentially produce millions of proteins.  With time, these proteins get modified, inactivated, damaged, or under- or over- produced. Therein lies the hazards and hopes,” Vashishth wrote.

For example, “In my lab at CBIS, we have identified protein modifications in bone that, with aging, diabetes, and certain long-term drug treatments, make bone brittle. Armed with that knowledge, and the mechanisms that cause such modifications, we now know how to make old bones new again,” Vashishth wrote. He also discusses progress in Alzheimer’s research and the future for personalized medicines.

“Collaborative research at CBIS and elsewhere, all of which engages students and prepares the next generation as interdisciplinary experts, is made possible by support from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Science Foundation (NSF). Through continued federal support and public-private global partnerships among universities and industries, there is great potential to move the outcomes from the lab to the marketplace with extraordinary impact on health-care delivery and on day-to-day living for individuals,” according to Vashishth.

“Biotechnology and advanced techniques are unleashing a new era with solutions to old problems and a lifeline to emerging personalized treatments. At the current pace of change—capitalizing on our ability to better understand, alter, and produce proteins—we can begin to imagine that diseases such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and osteoporosis, that now wreak havoc on our golden years, will become a distant memory,” he wrote.

To read Vashishth’s full essay “Unleashing the Power and Potential of Proteins” and to listen to the podcast, go to http://www.science2034.org/medicine/podcast-the-power-and-potential-of-proteins/.

Deepak Vashishth, Ph.D., is director of the Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. He was named a fellow of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE) in recognition of his groundbreaking bone research.

The Science Coalition is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization of the nation’s leading public and private research universities dedicated to sustaining the federal government’s investment in basic scientific research as a means to stimulate the economy, spur innovation, and drive America’s global competitiveness.

About Rensselaer Polytechnic InstituteFounded in 1824 as the first technological research university in the United States, Rensselaer embodies “The New Polytechnic:” a new paradigm for teaching, learning, and research—a view of the technological research university as a fresh collaborative endeavor across disciplines, sectors, and global regions. Rensselaer is a driving force behind breakthroughs in engineering and science in virtually every arena—from transportation and infrastructure to business, medicine, manufacturing, big data, computation, outer space, and cyberspace. For more information, please visit www.rpi.edu.